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Sacramentals. What's It All About?

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What are Sacramentals?  According the the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1667 "Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted Sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy."

So what does this really mean?  Sacramentals are material objects, things or actions set apart to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion.

What are some examples of Sacramentals?  The Sign of the Cross, Holy Water, a crucifix, rosaries, scapulars, blessed candles, ashes, palms, and images of the Blessed Virgin and the saints are all examples of Sacramentals.  Other examples that may not be so evident are blessing from priest and bishops, saying grace before meals, and exorcisms.  All-in-all there are three types of Sacramentals:  blessings, exorcisms, and blessed objects of devotion. 

It is important to remember, Sacramentals are not superstitions.  Sacramentals should not be thought of as contracts, investments, or good luck charms. To wear the scapular does not give us free reign to commit mortal sin and still be assured of heaven. The scapular is a symbol of Marian devotion and a silent prayer to Our Blessed Mother in heaven for salvation that she most certainly will not ignore. Using holy water is not an infallible wiping away of our venial sins unless we have contrition for our sins when we use it. The power of Sacramentals, then, depends greatly on the devotion of both the priest who gives the blessing and the person who is receiving the Sacramental. They depend on the prayers of the Church, the prayers of the blessings that are imposed on them, and the merits of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, and the Saints. Of themselves they do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly help for those who use them properly.

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